This article originally appeared on Forbes.com
Welcome to The Salary Chronicles, where we’re bringing transparency to negotiation and salaries, one story at a time. We ask women to share their experiences negotiating their salary and what their advice is for others doing the same. We share these stories anonymously so they feel comfortable speaking as openly and as freely as possible.
This week we’re speaking with a woman who rushed into the negotiation process and made a costly mistake under pressure.
Position: Special Projects, New York City Government
Location: New York City
Salary Offered: $85K
Salary Asked For: $100K
What was the situation when you decided to negotiate your salary?
I was about to graduate from law school and I was on the hunt for a job. A role in special projects had just opened up working for the New York City government and it was my dream job! They called me for an interview one morning and I rushed into their office to interview that same day. It was a whirlwind.
At the end of the interview I was offered the job on the spot. As I was processing that, the interviewer asked what I needed to earn in order to take the job.
The ball was in my court. I knew that my interviewer was an expert negotiator. He’d negotiated some very high profile deals extremely well. I was interviewing for my first job out of law school and had no real experience negotiating. I knew I was about to be out maneuvered.
I took a second and mentally tried to calculate what I needed to make in order to pay my law school loans and live in New York. I came up with some ballpark numbers, added $10k per year onto the lowest number I would need earn in order to make ends meet and came up with $85k.
After thinking through those numbers quickly, I told him I needed to make $85k-$100k. I figured that would be a great range to open the negotiation conversation. I was ready to negotiate.
His immediate response was “Great. $85,000 it is then.”
I immediately regretted opening my mouth. $85k was the lowest amount I was willing to take and I had just shown him my cards. All of my cards.
We moved into start date and other things, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that my rookie mistake just cost me a lot of money.
What happened next?
I really regretted opening my mouth so quickly and I decided to not let it end there. I was told I had 24 hours to accept the job, but I wanted to revisit the salary issue once more.
The next day I called him to give it another try. I explained that I had spoken too quickly the day before and after looking into it, I would need to earn at the top of the range I had given.
In a respectful, but matter-of-fact way, told me that it wouldn’t be possible and the job was going to pay $85k. There was no wiggle room left for me.
What did you decide to do?
Even though I had botched my negotiation I still really wanted the job. I was glad that I tried once more, but I knew (and I think he knew) that ultimately I was going to take the position even with the lower salary.
I started the job the very next week and was really happy to have a job that I loved. Within six months I received a raise to just under $100k and within a few years my salary increased to $130k. To me this was a clear signal that had I gone in and asked for $100k, rather than giving a range, I probably would have at least gotten close to that starting salary amount.
What advice do you have for other women?
Buy yourself more time. I was put on the spot to give a salary amount during the interview and it was so rushed, I didn’t really have a chance to do research or think about how much I really wanted to be paid. I now realize that the urgency he was placing on the situation by asking for a salary amount on the spot was a negotiation tactic. I should have said that I wanted the job but I wasn’t ready to discuss the amount. At minimum, I should have taken a few hours to compose myself, do some research, and practice asking for what I wanted.
Don’t give a range. I effectively negotiated against myself with this one. When I gave a range I gave away my bottom rate. They knew exactly the lowest amount they could offer me and I would still take the job. Of course they gave me that salary; why would they have given me anything higher than the lowest amount I would be willing to take?